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Seared Bay Scallops with Brown Butter Emulsion


Seared Bay Scallops with Brown Butter Emulsion

Town/Country Cookbook

Reprinted with permission from Geoffrey Zakarian's Town/Country (Clarkson Potter, 2006)
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"Bay scallops are small and delicate. Unfortunately, they often suffer overcooking, oversaucing, or some other cruel fate. Here, they’re seared and then quickly basted in butter, bringing out a delicious caramelized flavor, which is also reflected in the balsamic vinegar reduction sauce."

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes


  • **** For the emulsion ****
  • 2 cups balsamic vinegar
  • 1⁄4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • **** For the scallops ****
  • 2 pounds bay scallops
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • About 1⁄4 cup Clarified Butter (recipe below)
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter


Serves 4

Prepare the emulsion: Place the vinegar in a medium nonreactive saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and reduced to 1⁄2 cup, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and allow it to cool to room temperature.

Place the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat, and allow it to melt and turn light brown. Remove the butter from the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature. Gradually whisk the browned butter into the reduced balsamic vinegar. Whisk in the soy sauce and season with pepper to taste. Reserve the emulsion at room temperature.

Cook the scallops: Pat the scallops dry with paper towels and season them with the salt and pepper. Coat the bottom of 2 large skillets with clarified butter. Place the pans over a medium-high flame and heat until the butter is nearly smoking. Divide the scallops between the pans; do not shake the pans or move the scallops around. Immediately reduce the heat to medium and add a little more clarified butter to each pan. Cook the scallops until they are deeply brown on one side, about 3 minutes. Turn the scallops over, and add a sprig of thyme and a clove of garlic to each pan. Allow the scallops to brown slightly on the other side, continuously basting them with the hot butter, about 2 minutes.

Transfer the scallops to a platter with a slotted spoon and reserve in a warm place. Add the 1 tablespoon of butter to the pan and scrape with a wooden spoon to dislodge any browned bits; remove the pan from the heat when the butter is completely melted.

Pour an equal portion of the emulsion onto each plate in a wide stripe down the center. Place an equal portion of scallops, browned side up, in the center of each plate, spoon the pan drippings around, and serve immediately.

Clarified Butter: There are a number of variations on the procedure for making clarified butter, but the end result or goal is always the same: to eliminate the milk solids, which cause the butter to burn and spit when frying or sautéing foods at higher temperatures.

Note: Clarified butter is available in Asian or Indian markets under its Indian name, ghee.

Makes about 1-1⁄2 cups

1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter

Cut the butter into 1⁄2-inch slices and place it in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Allow the butter to melt and then come to a boil; this should take about 5 minutes. Skim off any foam that rises to the top. The butter should sizzle and crackle; throughout the process, make sure the heat is never so high that the bottom of the pan starts to brown or blacken. Lower the heat to keep the butter at a slow, steady boil for another 15 minutes, continuing to skim any surface foam. The bubbles in the butter will become smaller and smaller, ultimately the size of a pinhead. Allow any residual milk solids to settle to the bottom of the pan. Carefully pour off the pure, clear, oily butterfat into a holding container, leaving all solids behind. (At this point, you can pass it through a tea strainer or other fine-mesh strainer just to be sure it’s completely clear.) Allow the clarified butter to cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.

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